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When “Don’t!” Means “DO!” How RE@L’s 1Up On Vaping™ Makes The Difference

by | Sep 26, 2021 | RE@L StudentCorner | 0 comments

The RE@L Blogmeister began his teaching career in 1983. One year, we decided that it would be advantageous for all of us to share our classroom rules. It was a vulnerable thing to do. As our principal said with unfortunate overtones, “Teaching is one of the more private things we as humans do!” But our intent was honorable.

We knew that we could help our students by providing a consistent list of classroom rules for each classroom in the entire building. And so, we spent an afternoon sharing our classroom rules with one another. We did not finish. But we learned a lot about ourselves, our classrooms, and each other.

On that August afternoon, we met in the hot media center, and we each brought a copy of our rules to share with one another. Some of us made big posters with the word ‘DON’T…’ at the top, followed by a bulleted list of behaviors we forbade students to do in class: Don’t talk out of turn. Don’t arrive late to class. Don’t interrupt others. Don’t chew gum. Don’t turn in assignments late. Don’t copy the work of others. The ‘DON’TS’ could go on and on.

But these ‘rules’ were sometimes largely ignored by the students we teach. It was pointed out to us by our principal who had documented for each infraction in the prior year the number of times a student was ‘excused’ from the classroom for violating each of the most common classroom rules. 

Based on the overwhelming data, our principal made it clear to us that the ‘Dont’s’ were there for the teachers, not for the students. If these are the rules established by the adults in the school, why don’t students follow them?

It was at that time that one of our sage veteran teachers took the floor and challenged us to look at things differently. “We spend so much of our time on rules that are being broken,” he said. “I think students sometimes break the rules just to defy us as adults. Remember, ‘DO’ is the first word in ‘DON’T’. Students hear our ‘dont’s’ over and over at home, and then they come to school and hear them from us again: ‘DON’T! DON’T! DON’T!‘”

Our wise colleague, reddened in the face, plopped himself back into his chair with an exclamatory grunt that we had not seen or heard before, and he folded his arms. His point amplified our principal’s: in school, ‘DON’T, DON’T, DON’T’ meant ‘DO, DO, DO’ to our students. 

Yes, it’s true! Students actually know our rules of civil behaviors, and some of them demonstrate that by outwardly defying our adult “rules” of the classroom. Counter-intuitive, isn’t it? And yet it is true. It’s known to us teachers as: “Oppositional Behavior.” 

Herein lies one of the inherent challenges that educators face today when it comes to teaching the dangers of risky behavior for its own sake. Sometimes the best intentions of the teacher saying ‘Don’t!’ defiantly means an affirming ‘Do!’ to a student. There IS a difference between INTENT and IMPACT!

Today, educators across the nation recognize that their work in preventing risky behaviors needs to be more than just another adult telling students not to participate in such behaviors. It’s just another ‘Don’t’ from an adult. A highly respected authority figure saying ‘don’t’ just doesn’t cut it any longer as the only approach to addressing risky behaviors — if it ever did!

Our best teachers today add to their repertoire of engaging lesson plans and activities so that their voice is not alone. They leverage their lessons with guest speakers and testimonials. They search for multiple approaches to meet the preference of each learner. It’s a tall order which requires options.

When it comes to common risky behaviors like smoking or vaping, messages like ‘Don’t smoke!’ or ‘Don’t use nicotine!’ or ‘Don’t vape!’, can no longer stand on their own authority. Rather, today’s ‘savvy’ educators have a new, highly-engaging, personalized learning tool available to them: RE@L’s new learning product: 1Up On Vaping™. It’s not a teacher’s teaching tool. It’s a student’s learning tool. And it works. 


Here are three reasons why 1Up On Vaping™ is a difference-making student learning tool:

In 1Up On Vaping™, the students create personal avatars and insert themselves into a graphic arts narrative story. Supplemented by games and visual quizzes, students navigate their way through learning experiences that help them personalize the health hazards of smoking and vaping, including the harmful effects of nicotine.

1Up On Vaping™ extends the learning to ensure that students experience more than just another adult figure beginning a lesson with the word ‘Don’t.’ 1Up On Vaping™ inserts the student into a realistic storyline where the student decides what’s next.

RE@L’S 1Up on Vaping™ is a new tool and it is at the disposal of the classroom teacher. Through their experience as a character in the story, the student reaffirms that when it comes to eliminating nicotine use by students, ‘DON’T’ does not mean ‘DO.’ And, on their own, THEY DO!




Randy Nelson


Randy Nelson is a retired educator of 38 years. He served students as a high school speech, theater, and English teacher. He served colleagues as a director of curriculum and instruction; and, most recently he served the La Crosse, WI school district as its superintendent of schools. He has a strong leadership track record promoting choice and innovation via unique community partnerships. He currently serves RE@L, inc as its Director of Education.